Saturday, March 22, 2008

It's all a question of belief

I'm currently researching and writing another book and part of it looks at how deeply ingrained superstitious belief is, despite all of the available evidence to disprove it. I therefore sent out a questionnaire to almost everyone I know asking a few basic questions. Then, I chose 50 of the responses at random. The results were interesting, though not unsurprising. I have yet to complete a more detailed analysis but here are some early results:

One question asked ‘Do you consider yourself to be a superstitious person?’ Another asked ‘Do you believe in luck?’ A later question asked respondees to indicate what activities they would undertake on Friday the 13th. Among the options were things like:

•Drive to work.
•Place a bet on a horse race.
•Go for a romantic meal with a loved one.
•Get married.

It was interesting to see that of the 23 people that answered ‘No’ to the first two questions, only three said that they would get married on Friday the 13th. So even people who see themselves as non-Believers are in the thrall of Dame Fortune ... her talons dig deep. And early indications are that people have levels of belief ... there is only so far they will go before the ancient superstitions take control.

Another question asked people if they knew their star sign and asked them to describe, in just five words, what the attributes were for people born under that sign. 100% of people knew their star sign. Intriguingly, 34 of the 50 were also able to describe what a person sharing their star sign was meant to be like. This raises all kinds of questions about whether we are moulded by these ancient beliefs or whether we mould them. After all, if you'd spent all of your life being told that Leos (what I am) are 'enthusiastic, energetic, optimistic, generous, artistic' ... wouldn't you try to emulate that?

According to one horoscope site, I should be 'full of ambition and enthusiasm (but should) admit to a lazy streak and, given the opportunity, will take the easy way out, especially when a situation offers little fun or glory'.

The most extraordinary description I read was 'People born in this period should have more time to sleep than almost anyone else. They usually overwork their brains, and are inclined to suffer from headache, trouble with the eyes and other things concerned (sic) the head. And they are liable to get cuts and wounds in the head. Such people usually demand constant medical attention.'

As I read this I distinctly felt myself think 'Yes, I do have trouble with my eyes ...' It just shows you that it's so easy to try to make this rubbish fit your life. The fact is, I am not a heavy sleeper and rarely have more than 6 hours a night. I'm not a martyr to headaches and the only significant head injury I've had was when I collected a brick during the Southall riots in 1981. I am rarely ill and the only 'constant medical attention' I need is to do with a back injury I sustained a few years ago.

Leos are also born leaders apparently. I hate being in charge and, during my police career, made a conscious decision never to take promotion as I didn't want to be responsible for other people. This despite the fact that for two years I was part of the team that wrote the promotion exams.

An interesting start to the results. I look forward to more revelations.

Oh, and I've just noticed that my profile on Blogger has automatically listed my star sign as Leo and my Chinese horoscope sign as Ox. Someone has actually taken the time to write a piece of code that works it all out from my date of birth. Presumably Blogger itself commissioned and paid for that piece of work because they felt that the information would be either necessary or useful.

In what way?

No comments: